November 6, 2015

Vocations Supplement

Benedictine Sisters find joy in community, ministry and prayer

By Natalie Hoefer

There is no barrier on joy—it is ageless and timeless.

Just ask the Sisters of St. Benedict at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove. In a recent interview with three sisters of different age groups, a common message that resonated was joy in their vocation, no matter the ministry.

Here are the stories of these three Benedictine sisters, and the joy they find serving God and others in religious life.

‘I find even more joy in my work’

Benedictine Sister Susan ReuberBenedictine Sister Susan Reuber, 35, had been teaching English at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis for eight years when she acknowledged that “something” was missing in her life.

“My job was too much of my life,” she said. “I realized there has to be something more.”

She visited the Benedictine Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Ind., in the Evansville Diocese, where her sister is a member of that religious community. But she “didn’t feel at home there.”

It was suggested she attend a discernment weekend at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove.

“I put it off for a while,” Sister Susan admitted. “It was out of my comfort zone.”

But by the end of the weekend, she said, “I didn’t want to go home.”

Now a Benedictine sister for three years, Sister Susan is living a life of enhanced joy.

“I always found joy in teaching, in my work,” she said. “But now I find even more joy in my work because I have someone to share it with, and more to share with my students.

“I enjoy being able to show my faith to them, and sharing my life as a sister with them when they ask questions about religious life.”

As she continues to teach at Roncalli, she brings more prayer to her job.

“I lead prayer before each class,” said Sister Susan. “And when all the sisters pray in community, I know they’re lifting me up in prayer, even though they may not know what kind of day I’ve had.”

Her life of prayer and work as a Benedictine has provided Sister Susan that “something” she was missing before: “I’ve become grounded in my relationship with God.”

‘It’s a joy to spread Christ to the world’

Benedictine Sister Anna Marie MegelFor the last 50 years, Benedictine Sister Anna Marie Megel has ministered as a teacher, a missionary and in administration.

During the past 14 years, she has particularly enjoyed ministering to Latinos at St. Monica Parish on the northwest side of Indianapolis.

“When I first came [to the parish], we didn’t have a large Hispanic community, so I did it all,” said Sister Anna Marie, who learned to speak Spanish during 12 years of mission work in the South American countries of Columbia and Peru.

As the Hispanic population increased in the parish, Sister Anna Marie’s ministry to them became more focused on religious education, sacramental preparation and outreach to the poor.

Her work is now expanding beyond the Hispanic community as the parish seeks to create more unity between its Latino members and parishioners from other ethnic backgrounds. But as she reflected on her ministry at the parish thus far, Sister Anna Marie noted the joy she has found in helping others.

“I love serving the people,” said the 70-year-old sister, who has been a Benedictine for 50 years. “Hispanic people are impressive and inspiring. They are caring, concerned, and they help their people a lot. I’m edified by their generosity and appreciation and their giving of self.

“[Benedictines] are called to welcome all as Christ. I really get to do that in my ministry.”

Her service at St. Monica fulfills one portion of the two-fold call of St. Benedict’s Latin motto, “ora et labora,”—prayer and work. While the two are intertwined, her prayer life takes a special focus at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove—another source of joy for Sister Anna Marie.

“I love being a sister,” she said enthusiastically. “I love living in community. I love our daily prayer as community.”

Despite all the time Sister Anna Marie dedicates to work and prayer, she counts herself as the blessed one.

“In return, I receive much more than I’m able to give. It’s a joy to be able to spread Christ to the world.”

‘Joy in the living of the day’

Benedictine Sister Bernardine LudwigAt age 86, Benedictine Sister Bernardine Ludwig is still active in ministry.

“I don’t think I’ll ever retire until God says, ‘That’s enough.’ Then I’ll be ready,” she said.

Her current ministry involves a lifelong joy in making crafts. When she was a child, a health condition required Sister Bernardine to live a quiet life. So her mother kept her hands busy with crafts.

In her current ministry, said Sister Bernardine, “I crochet, knit, embroider, do needlework, make rosary bracelets and holy things. I find joy in doing it. It’s very quieting. I can center on Christ. I pray for the people that [purchase her pieces], that they might be inspired in some way.”

And through her craftwork, Sister Bernardine helps those in need. She crochets blankets for Birthline, an archdiocesan ministry to help women in crisis pregnancies and their children. At a recent craft fair, her creations helped raise nearly $750, half of which went to a refugee assistance program.

Her crafts are not the only part of Sister Bernardine’s life that bring her joy.

“I find joy every day in the living of the day,” she said. “I find joy when we’re together as a community, when we pray and eat together, and at times when we play together.

“I find joy when we have guests. St. Benedict says we’re to treat our guests as Christ—it’s like Christ coming in our midst.”

Before dedicating her ministry to prayer and crafts, Sister Bernardine most recently coordinated activities for the sisters at the monastery until she was 80. Before that assignment, she worked in social services at the sisters’ St. Paul Hermitage.

But for 36 years she ministered as an educator, teaching first grade.

“That’s another joy, when I hear from the students or their parents about how [her former students] are serving God,” she said.

Looking back on her 68 years as a Benedictine, Sister Bernardine sees a life of blessing.

“It’s all God’s gift. When you think about it, our life is all gift.”
 

(For more information on the Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, log on to www.benedictine.com.)

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