Prioress Sister Nicole Kunze Commissions Sisters to "Come, Follow, Trust"

Commissioning Reflection
August 6, 2016
Sister Nicole Kunze, Prioress

I begin this reflection with an excerpt from a poem.
Come, Follow, Trust
A request to move beyond the familiar
A challenge to enter a liminal moment
Believing in the great being who beckons
Trusting in the potent becoming that awaits
Aware of God within
Knowing God among
Sensing God around
Discerning God ahead

The author of the poem is Sister Mary Beth Gianoli, a Franciscan sister from Oldenburg, Indiana, and it was published in a recent LCWR publication.
I believe this poem speaks to the time and place we find ourselves in at this moment. Come, Follow, Trust.

I interpret the “Come” as the invitation we answered when joining this community of the Annunciation and the invitation before us now as we walk into tomorrow together. God called each of us and we answered. There are 43 women in this community today and there are 43 unique calls among us. God called each of us, invited us to use our gifts in a particular way with this group of women. God is now inviting us, collectively, to answer the call he’s giving us today.

The “Follow” is what we have done and are currently doing. During our time in community, we have followed our individual call wherever it led. Most of us have ministered in different places and in different ways than we would have ever expected since entering community. Even during my twenty years in community, I’ve taught in two different schools, lived on mission far away from the community, and now am experiencing a life that doesn’t include following a school year calendar for the first time.

“Trust” – a key word in all of it. Answering the invitation and following it cannot be done without trust. If one does not trust, you will stay with the known, with the familiar, and never venture into the unknown. Four Benedictine sisters left St. Joseph, Minnesota, in 1878 for Bismarck, Dakota Territory, not knowing what they would find when they stepped off that railroad car. 144 sisters said yes to Bishop Ryan’s request to found an independent monastery in the Bismarck Diocese, not knowing where that would lead them. Most of you sitting in this chapel tonight decided to sell what had been your home for nearly 40 years to design a monastery for living the monastic life into the 21st century.
Come, Follow, Trust. What are we being asked to do now?

In last year’s commissioning reflection, Sister Nancy Miller asked us to enter into our long-range planning process and to trust the process. The phrases on that bookmark, attributed to Father Jerome Kodell – I am with you. I love you. Trust me. – were our mantra as we journeyed through the planning process and discernment for election. Last August during our chapter meeting we adopted a vision statement, a statement meant to guide us and stretch us as we move into the future. It expresses a place we will find ourselves if we do what is necessary to get us to there. We will be a vibrant Benedictine community. We will call ourselves to live our charism, mission, values, and guiding principles faithfully each day. We will invite new members to join us in our mutual search for God. We will find new ways to collaborate with others to build the kingdom of God.

During the fall and winter, we worked on the direction statements that will guide our planning and decisions for the next four years. We are committed to community life, leadership, membership, ministries, and sponsorship. As we move into this fall, committees will develop objectives and strategies to help us realize those statements, to help us get to that future place where we want to be.

Come, Follow, Trust – we also have the example of Mary at the Annunciation. The invitation from Gabriel, “The Lord is with you. Do not fear. You have found favor with God.” Eventually, Mary responded with “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” Later, Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s response expressed Mary’s trust – “Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.”

Another excerpt from Sister Mary Beth’s poem:
Do I have courage enough
To venture, to change, to leave the security I hold dear?
Can I, Will I
Allow God’s transforming presence to carry me forward?

God invites us, like the angel visiting Mary at the Annunciation, he is inviting us to trust, to walk into the unknown. We are facing a future that is different than the past. Our monastic community is different. Our civic community is different. Bismarck, Mandan, and the region still needs us and those collaborating with us, to provide healthcare and education but there are other unmet needs in the community. Can we assist in meeting those needs? Are we willing to venture into these new areas, collaborating and working with others as we’ve done in the past, while continuing to remain faithful to our Benedictine way of life? I believe we are willing and able.

The last lines of Sister Mary Beth’s poem
One Guide, One Choice
One change, One vision, One Hope
Come, Follow, Trust

Tonight I commission us to continue faithfully living our Benedictine way of life as sisters of the Annunciation, daring to answer the Lord’s call in the spirit of Mary. “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” Each of you will receive a bookmark with an abbreviated version of our vision statement on it. Sit with it, pray with it, live it. By continuing this journey of faith together, I believe we will fulfill the words of Saint Benedict, “Let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”


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