November 4, 2022

2022 Vocations Awareness Supplement

Bonds across the generations connect sisters in friendship and love of God

The friendship between Benedictine Sister Susan Reuber, left, and Sister Mary Luke Jones reflects one of the defining qualities of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove—the tight bonds that connect sisters across the generations. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

The friendship between Benedictine Sister Susan Reuber, left, and Sister Mary Luke Jones reflects one of the defining qualities of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove—the tight bonds that connect sisters across the generations. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

BEECH GROVE—Just back from an enjoyable football weekend at the University of Notre Dame, 74-year-old Benedictine Sister Mary Luke Jones and 42-year-old Sister Susan Reuber joke and smile as they lead a visitor on a walk through the grounds of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove.

Their smiles and laughs continue on this grey and blustery autumn afternoon when the visitor asks the sisters to stop for a photo that will appear in The Criterion, and Sister Mary Luke playfully says after a few standard shots, “Should we hug?” As the two friends do, their faces radiate joy.

Their closeness also reflects one of the main qualities that defines the Our Lady of Grace community, say the sisters who live there—the tight bonds that connect the sisters across generations, leading to close friendships and an even deeper relationship with God.

“You’re in the midst of like-minded women who are all dedicated to the honor and glory of God,” Sister Mary Luke says. “We pray together three times a day and are accountable to each other and rely upon each other, and we also have the benefit of the wisdom and the expertise of each other. What’s there not to like?”

She is just warming up on a belief that she always carries in her heart.

“The atmosphere around here is one of caring and concern,” Sister Mary Luke continues. “We have a 38-year-old and a 99-year-old and everything in between. We have rural and urban, we have only children and oldest children and youngest children and everything in between. So, you got all kinds of personalities. But we accept each other. That’s not to say that sometimes we may blurt out a word or a look or an eye roll. But at the same time, we understand we’re accountable to each other and we’re here for each other.”

As one of the youngest members of the community, Sister Susan adds, “When I think about the older sisters, the first aspect that comes to mind is their devotion to our prayer and community life. You can truly see their love for Christ in their devotion to the Liturgy of the Hours.

“It is also a blessing to have their wisdom. I know there is always someone who will have some insight into something I am struggling with. I also admire their trust in God and his steadfast love for us.”

The gift of friendship

The friendship between Sister Mary Luke and Sister Susan has evolved since Sister Susan entered the Benedictine community in 2012—46 years after Sister Mary Luke joined it in 1966.

“How [Sister} Luke chooses to live her life is a great role model for all of us who are in the younger generation,” Sister Susan says. “She chooses to be generous with her time and her gifts in the community. She’s always including other people. If she’s showing a movie, she’ll ask lots of people if they want to watch it. And she’s a great storyteller. I always love listening to her stories.”

Sister Mary Luke says her generosity flows from the example of her parents and grandparents.

“I would not be true to my own self if I didn’t share my gifts,” she says. “I’m a big party planner and thrower around here because I enjoy it. And it leads to community life. It makes us stronger.”

Their friendship has especially grown stronger in the past year as Sister Susan has taken on the community’s role of director of development, an area that Sister Mary Luke led for 30 years before retiring in June.

“Susan and I worked together all last year in the development office,” Sister Mary Luke says. “Susan has just latched onto this development thing from the get-go. It’s so easy for me to hand over the reins to this office because I know it’s in good hands.”

Benedictine Sister Harriet Woehler has the same faith and confidence in Sister Marie Therese Racine—and a similarly close friendship.

‘She knows my heart’

Now 91, Sister Harriett smiles as she looks back across the years to when Sister Marie entered Our Lady of Grace Monastery in 2000.

“I had her in formation—hovering, protecting, teaching the Benedictine way of life, our way of life,” Sister Harriet recalls as she looks at Sister Marie seated nearby inside the monastery. “For some, formation bonded into connecting with them. She loved music and that was me, too. Music is so bonding, and we had that. And the spirituality.”

Sister Marie’s eyes light up as she recalls Sister Harriet’s influence.

“I was under her direction for my first two years here,” says Sister Marie, who is now 62. “Even before music was involved, it was really the passion she had for monastic life—the joy she had, teaching us, encouraging us on our journey and also listening to our stories. She allowed me to share who I was and accepted me with the love of Christ. So, that was the bond for me. She knows my heart. It’s the vulnerability you can have with someone that you trust over the years, and that continues.”

Their bond has also strengthened through the years as they have helped each other grow in their relationship with Christ.

“We share books, she finds things of interest that I like on the Internet,” Sister Harriet says. “It’s not just being friends. It’s sharing the Benedictine way of life. It’s just the love of the way of Jesus.”

Sister Marie notes, “We encourage each other on the journey. We help each other grow.

“There’s a term we have in the Rule [of St. Benedict] about radical self-honesty. I can be radically

self-honest with Sister Harriet. That really helps me be true to my vocation, to my relationship with Christ, to where I might quite not be on the straight path. To be able to talk things over with her on some things helps me. She’s a spiritual guide for me, and that’s how we started.”

There’s also been a transition in their relationship as Sister Harriet has gotten older—a transition that Sister Marie compares to the change in a relationship between a parent and a child as a parent reaches a certain age. As Sister Harriet has always been there for her, Sister Marie strives to be even more present for Sister Harriet.

‘A wonderful way of life’

“Intergenerational living helps us to see the long span of life, the different stages,” Sister Marie says. “It helps me to learn to love—who needs to be cared for right now. It’s just companionship on the journey, but it has a richness. We’re in with people who have different life experiences that can help give different perspectives. It just adds a great richness to our life together.

“And I have to say I have a great sense of gratitude to Sister Harriet and all her contemporaries for persevering in this life through very difficult times after Vatican II. Our community was sustained by them. So, they pass on to us that strength, the love and the passion for this way of life so we can continue it, in whatever way it’s going to be. It gives us courage. It gives me courage. But it’s really a deep sense of gratitude. It helps us keep going.”

Sister Harriet smiles again at Sister Marie as the elder sister says, “This is a wonderful way of life. And I would highly encourage it for anyone who feels God has called them.”

That sentiment is echoed by Sister Mary Luke.

“I don’t know why young women aren’t knocking down our doors. We have been given so many opportunities educationally. We have excellent health care. And we have the opportunity to be of service to others. Our primary work is our prayer. And we’re very conscientious about that. We have people asking us to pray for them, whether online or calling in. And family and friends call upon us to be there in prayer for them. It’s such a privilege and an honor to do so.”

She takes a breath before adding, “This has been my life for 56 years. And it’s always been a wonderful life. It’s always been a pleasure to be a part of the community—and to do what I can to be a significant part of it.”

(For more information about Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, visit

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