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Prioress Reflection for Sister Hannah's Perpetual Monastic Profession
Instruction – Sister Nancy Miller, Prioress
Perpetual Monastic Profession – Sister Hannah Vanorny
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Sister Hannah, I am sure your heart is overflowing with joy. We are happy for you. We have just applauded and affirmed your courage and willingness to say “yes” to God’s call to become a full member of the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery. You truly are a gift to our Benedictine community, to the Church, and to your family and friends. Thank you for committing yourself to God and to your sisters of Annunciation Monastery.
For those of you who don’t know it, Sister Hannah is a runner. She runs nearly every day outside. She runs in marathons. Running, especially outdoors, often enables Sister Hannah to feel closer to God. On the cover of today’s program you will notice the quote from the prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict which says, “We shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delights of love.” This eagerness to run toward God with joyful love brought Sister Hannah to the monastery. And it brought her and all of us to this special event - her perpetual monastic profession.
Sister Hannah is making a lifelong commitment to journey to God with the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery. Our lives as Benedictine sisters focus intently on making God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the center of our lives. We travel together on this path toward a deeper union with God. That is why community is important for us. Together we are women who are God-seekers. We live, pray, work and share meals together with the Gospel and the Rule of Benedict as our guides. We support and encourage each other as we serve the people of the Bismarck Diocese and surrounding region.
Community is a Benedictine value that is important to Sister Hannah. In a paper she wrote recently Sister Hannah said, “I have learned so much from many sisters about how to live in a monastic community with others and how to treat people in a God-like way… I feel a sense of belonging and pride in being a member of Annunciation Monastery. Belonging to a community suits me because I like to belong to groups that are accomplishing greater things than each person could do herself. …. And I love that I am not on this faith journey by myself; others are around to keep me company and to guide me as I go.”
In just a few moments Sister Hannah will make a commitment to be a lifelong member of Annunciation Monastery. She will make a threefold promise of stability, fidelity to the monastic life, and obedience. It may seem like Sister Hannah is making three promises, but for St. Benedict, it is one promise with three intertwined facets. A monastic woman can’t live one without the other.
Stability means committing herself to remain in this community of sisters forever, to persevere and stay put through both good times and bad. It means not only to be physically present in the monastery but also psychologically present - embracing monastic life and forming her life around it. Each sister is bonded not only to the monastery – a place – but to each other. Our relationships with each other help us to be rooted in monastic life.
Fidelity to the monastic life involves committing herself to the Benedictine way of life and all that it entails. Sister Hannah will continue to study the Rule of Benedict and authentically live out that Rule. She will strive to be faithful to the entire monastic lifestyle – prayer, community, service – for the rest of her life.
Obedience means listening – listening to God, to the prioress, to the community, to her own conscience. It comes from having a heightened awareness of God so she can recognize God’s voice in her life, whether it comes from another sister, the Scriptures, through nature or in the words of a stranger. God speaks to us in many ways. It is up to us to listen.
During the rite of profession, Sister Hannah will approach the altar and make her promise of stability, fidelity to the monastic life and obedience which she has written out in her profession document. She will place the document on the altar as a sign of her total dedication to God. Sister Hannah and I will sign it and it will remain on the altar during this Eucharist.
Then with arms extended, Sister Hannah will sing the Suscipe three times. Each time we Benedictine sisters will respond as a sign of our unity with her. The Suscipe, “Receive me, O Lord,” is an ancient prayer asking God to receive the gift of ourselves.
Next Sister Hannah will prostrate before the altar as we sing a litany of God’s blessings upon her. This is a gesture of humility and a sign of dependence on God and the community. In the final action of the profession rite, Sister Hannah will receive a ring, a visible sign of her commitment to God and the Benedictines of Annunciation Monastery. It is designed with our bell banner, a symbol of a lifelong dedication to God and our monastic community.
Sister Hannah, the Gospel passage you chose for today speaks about remaining in the love of Jesus that your joy may be complete. Jesus says to you, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” Sister Hannah, thank you for responding to God’s call to religious life in this community. All of us here support you as you commit yourself to the monastic way of life. Sister Hannah, we pray that you joyfully carry the fruit of Christ’s love to all you meet in your life as a Benedictine sister of Annunciation Monastery.