50th Jubilee Reflection for Sister Margaret Nelson
June 9, 2018
Sister Nicole Kunze, prioress
Sister Margaret, today’s event is one of the few times when you haven’t had a preview of the prioress’ reflection before she shares it. You have served as my proofreader and sounding board for several reflections and talks, along with other former prioresses, but I didn’t give you the chance to see this one ahead of time. I hope you will approve of it. I’ve done my best to be concise and use action verbs.
I want to welcome Sister Margaret’s sister, Carol, her brother in law, Ken, and her brother, Barry, here today along with cousins and friends. A fiftieth jubilee is a celebration of the sister’s commitment to the monastic way of life, our community’s commitment to one another, and ultimately of God’s love and support for all of us.
In preparing this reflection, I went to Sister Margaret’s personal file and there was a lot of information there. I particularly enjoyed reading the press releases and reflections from her 25th jubilee in 1993. Let me share a quote she gave in one of the articles: “I’m glad for the past 25 years but am really excited about the next 25. I look forward to deepening my relationship with Jesus, and monastic life gives me so many opportunities to do that.”
You have had many opportunities in the past 25 years that have helped your personal relationship with Jesus and your love of the monastic way of life grow and deepen.
You had the opportunity to serve three prioresses for around 20 years as community secretary. You’ve taken minutes for more meetings than you care to count. I’ve already mentioned your assistance with reflections and talks. You continue to serve our community as the obituary writer. Your ability to lovingly reflect a sister’s life is a true gift that we appreciate.
When I was a novice, you joined my class on the Rule of Saint Benedict. Since I was the only novice at the time, I appreciated your presence and insights as I was just beginning my monastic journey. You also had the opportunity to serve as postulant director, working with women in the first stage of entering our community. As a director, you were able to study the monastic way of life and assist our new members as they transitioned into our community.
Over the past several years, you have spent some time at area nursing homes while some broken bones healed. Whether it was in Garrison or St. Gabriel’s, your spirit and outgoing nature drew staff members to you. I know you have kept up several relationships that started during your stays in these facilities. In various interviews over the years, you have said your handicap is part of your ministry, making you receptive to people who approach you with their sorrows and their hurts. I would also add that you have great intuition about when a person is in need of help. On a regular basis, you will look at me or visit with me and quickly ask, “What is wrong?” I appreciate your willingness to ask the question and the loving concern which prompted it.
Your participation in the Northland PACE program has been a lifegiving outlet for you the past few years, giving you the opportunity to interact with other participants at the day center. Your interactions and relationships with others is your way of living the command that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel reading: love one another. (Jn 15:9 – 17)
Whether it was your ministry in the Public Affairs Office at the University of Mary, as sacristan or community secretary here at the monastery, relationships are key for you. You are a “people person”. Thank you for your example to all of us. I believe we sisters are most grateful for who you are – a loving woman who values her relationship with God and all people.
In a few moments, we will hear Sister Margaret renew her commitment of monastic profession. Fifty years ago, she promised to God stability, fidelity to the monastic way of life, and obedience.
When we sisters of Annunciation Monastery profess stability, we promise to persevere in our search for God, and to bind ourselves to this particular group of women. We put down deep roots into God, each other and the people of North Dakota. This is home for us. This community, with its blessings and challenges, is our way to God.
By fidelity to the monastic way of life, we commit ourselves to keep on growing in the Benedictine way. Relying on God and being open to change and conversion, we experience inner transformation and become ever more Jesus-centered.
Obedience means to listen intently – to listen and become aware of God’s direction for our lives. We pay attention to God’s word in the Scriptures, the Rule of Benedict, in the prioress and in one another. We listen to those we serve; we listen to the call of the Church and the world. And then we respond in obedience to what we hear.
Sister Margaret, as you renew your monastic profession, we pray for you. We pray that you will continue to remain in Jesus’ love. May the words of St. Benedict inspire you: as you progress in this way of life and in faith, may you run on the path of God’s commandments, your heart overflowing with the inexpressible delights of love. (RB Prol:49, paraphrase)