By Kelley Baldwin
Special to the Catholic Key
God as the master gardner and the beauty of death bringing new life were the themes of the First Monastic Profession of Benedictine Sister Maria Gara, OSB on May 2 in the Adoration Chapel of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration’s community in Clyde, Missouri.
Father Albert Bruecken, OSB remarked in his homily that monastic profession marks a new beginning and learning how to live for others.
“It is death to being center of my world, death to selfishness,” he said. “It is kindness, humility, putting others needs before my own.” He later added that when someone commits to religious life, “No one takes my life from me. I lay down and give it away.”
During the ceremony, BSPA Prioress General Sister Dawn Annette Mills, OSB said, “Maria, no doubt you have noticed how much we read about gardening in the Bible. Our God is a gardener. So many stories are about seeds, vineyards, fruit trees and grains of wheat. You are a garden of the Lord.”
Maria then made her formal request to seek admittance to the Benedictine Sisters. The community answered in unison, “We accept her. We welcome her. Thanks be to God!”
She was then questioned about her monastic commitment and promised stability in the Congregation, conversatio and obedience according to the Rule of Benedict.
After Maria read aloud her written and signed profession document, Sister Dawn gifted her with the monastic habit. Leaving the chapel briefly to change, Maria returned wearing her new clothing as a symbol of dispossession, conversion and simplicity. She then received the emblem of the bread and wine, a sign of her profession and charism of the Congregation’s dedication to the Holy Eucharist.
The day was an important stop on the long journey of religious discernment, as Sister Maria remarked, “It’s a lifelong process.”
She entered the Benedictine Sisters as a postulant in 2012 and became a novice in 2013. The East Sidney, New York, native earned a degree in biochemistry from Hamilton College and worked for the National Park Service in New Mexico and for the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada before her entrance.
“The formation process assists a woman to discern her religious call by immersing her in our monastic way of life – our liturgical prayer, our work, our customs – to determine whether or not she can adapt to and demonstrate daily fidelity to the demands, the challenges, the joys and the graces of this life,” said Sister Pat Nyquist, OSB who served as Sister Maria’s formation director. “Witnessing her profession of vows and seeing her clothed in the monastic habit brings the past three years of intensive study, seeking, and soul-searching together into a profound moment of commitment to accept the loving invitation God has extended to her.”
Just within the past two years, two other members made their Final Monastic Professions, one religious sister began the Rite of Transfer to the Congregation from another community, two women entered as postulants and a third will enter the postulancy this summer.
“Every profession is a sign of God’s continued fidelity to our Congregation,” Sister Dawn Annette said. “Our charism continues to speak to the hearts of women who wish to help us in our work for God’s reign. It also brings us joy to share our life and our mission with new members.”