November 1, 2019

2019 Vocations Awareness Supplement

Separated by two minutes at birth, sisters continue their strong bond as religious sisters

Part of triplets with their brother Eric, Benedictine sisters Susan, left, and Jill Reuber have often shared the same path in life, but their roads to their vocations took different turns. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Part of triplets with their brother Eric, Benedictine sisters Susan, left, and Jill Reuber have often shared the same path in life, but their roads to their vocations took different turns. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

Jill and Susan Reuber were born within two minutes of each other, part of triplets with their brother Eric.

Growing up, the sisters shared a bedroom and a car, became best friends and did many of the same activities—from playing in their high school marching band to working together at Dairy Queen.

“We pretty much answered to each other’s names, too, because people couldn’t tell us apart,” Susan says with a laugh.

One of the few places where they were separated growing up was during Mass at their parish church.

“Our parents didn’t let us sit next to each other,” Jill says.

“Probably because they thought we would talk to each other,” Susan says.

“Or hit each other,” Jill adds, smiling.

Yet despite this remarkable closeness, Susan had a quick, emphatic reaction years later when older sister Jill chose to make her vows as a Sister of St. Benedict.

“I wasn’t going to do what Jill did,” she says forcefully.

That response makes both sisters smile at the same time.

So begins the story of how these two 39-year-old sisters are not only connected by blood and love, but now also by their faith and shared vows as Benedictine sisters.

‘I wanted God to give me a lightning bolt’

Sister Jill’s journey to religious life took its defining turn when she was a student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

“In my freshman and sophomore years, I went on a mission trip during both spring breaks to Nazareth Farm in West Virginia,” she recalls.

“I was in elementary education and after my freshman year there, I wanted to teach in the Appalachian Mountains. In my second year there, we prayed together in the mornings and the evenings. That’s where I found I wanted that prayer life, that community life. That’s when I started discerning that [religious life] is what I wanted to do. I also wanted God to give me a lightning bolt, to tell me what to do.”

There was just one problem with that lightning bolt plan.

“During one Mass at camp, the priest’s whole homily was that God doesn’t give lightning bolts,” Sister Jill says.

Still, by her senior year, she started visiting the Benedictine sisters’ community at Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Ind., in the Evansville Diocese.

“I fell in love with prayer, community and the way the sisters loved each other.”

Following her college graduation, she entered the Benedictine community in Ferdinand in August of 2003 and professed her final vows in 2011. She is now the community’s vocation director, seeking to lead other women to the life she loves.

“I feel like I can be me in this community,” Sister Jill says. “They love me because of who I am and not what I do.”

It was the life she wanted—a life that Susan “wanted nothing to do with it.”

‘Something is missing in my life’

“When Jill was discerning in college, she was right that I didn’t want anything to do with it,” says Sister Susan, a 2003 graduate of Franklin College in Franklin. “I wanted my own car, my own house and my own paycheck. But deep down, I didn’t want to do what Jill was doing. In college, for the first time, we really had our own identity.”

After graduation, she began a career in education, joining Roncalli High School in Indianapolis as an English teacher in her second year.

“It was my dream job—teaching in a Catholic school, sharing my faith with my students.

“Fast forward eight years to 2011. I’m starting to think something is missing in my life. I’m at school way too much.”

Right then, she gets a message from Benedictine Sister Michelle Sinkhorn—the vocation director for the Ferdinand community at the time—inviting her to take part in a “Come and See” weekend among the sisters.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to open that door,” Sister Susan recalls. “I talked to Jill, and she convinced me to come, that we could hang out for the weekend. In my mind, I was just going to see Jill.”

Then a series of lightning bolts hit, starting on that weekend.

‘I have to find something I hate’

“God opened my heart and said, ‘Why aren’t you pursuing this?’ ” Sister Susan recalls. “I saw how happy Jill is, and how happy the sisters are. At the end of the weekend, I sat down with Sister Michelle. I owned a house in Beech Grove, and sister said, ‘Why don’t you visit the sisters at Our Lady of Grace Monastery there?’

“The drive home was the longest 2 1/2-hour drive I had ever made in my life. I’m going to have to quit my job and sell my house. Then at Roncalli, [Benedictine] Sister Anne Frederick handed me a brochure for their ‘Come and See’ weekend at Our Lady of Grace. She didn’t even know I had gone to Ferdinand. I saw that as a sign from the Holy Spirit that I should come here.”

She came for the weekend, arriving with this thought, “I have to find something I hate about the place so I could be done with it.”

She had a different feeling by the end of the weekend.

“On Sunday afternoon, it was time to leave. I didn’t find anything I didn’t like. I fell in love with the sisters. What I was missing in my life was community.”

She entered into the Benedictine community in September of 2012, choosing Beech Grove over Ferdinand because she thought it would allow her and Sister Jill to keep their own identities.

Sister Jill was there when her sister professed her final vows this past June.

“It was neat to think she just professed the same vows I’ve taken and lived,” Sister Jill says.

‘There’s something different about you’

Sharing those vows has added another dimension to their closeness. Living their vows has also brought them to a deeper relationship with God.

“When I entered the community, God was more father-like to me,” Sister Jill says. “Now, he’s become more a friend and companion. I spend each morning 30 minutes in prayer. It’s more of a conversation between me and Jesus. Now my faith is my whole life—seeing Christ in every person I meet and talk with.”

Sister Susan also talks of having a friendship with God, and how her time in prayer with him lets her “dig deeper to see what he’s calling me to do.”

She also thanks him for calling her to her Benedictine community.

“The biggest thing for me is the support,” says Sister Susan, who has returned to Roncalli as a teacher. “A teacher at Roncalli came up to me a year after I had come back there. She said, ‘There’s something different about you. You’re much more joy-filled.’

“It’s because I’m going back at the end of the day to a community that supports me and loves me and accepts me. They’ve found gifts in me that I never would have found in myself. It’s having the other women here who believe in me.”

It’s also having the bond with Sister Jill—a sister who has always believed in her.
 

(For more information on the Benedictine sisters of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, visit www.benedictine.com.)

 

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