Mass of Thanksgiving and Farewell to the Benedictine Sisters of San Benito Monastery

Today, we celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving and Farewell to celebrate the 31 years the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have ministered in the Diocese of Cheyenne. It was an emotional Mass, and a joyful celebration and reception that followed.  Here is my homily for the occasion:

Mass of Thanksgiving & Farewell: Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at San Benito Monastery

From Left To Right, Benedictine Sisters Hope, Gladys, Josetta and Regina.
From Left To Right, Benedictine Sisters Hope, Gladys, Josetta and Regina.

We welcome all of you to this celebration this morning, especially, we welcome Sr. Gladys, Sr. Regina, Sr. Josetta and Sr. Hope. We are also pleased to have so many other members of the Benedictine community join us for today’s celebration.

In our opening prayer for Mass, we pray for these “servants who have left all things … who devote themselves entirely to you [God.] … following Christ and renouncing the things of this world.” (Prayers For Religious, Roman Missal, 3rd edition)

As we give thanks for the 31 years of your presence in the Diocese of Cheyenne, we must think about not just the individual members of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, but the root of your vocations. Beyond your monastic life as Benedictines are the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, which are at the heart of every religious vocation.

This ‘pursuit of perfect charity by means of the evangelical counsels traces its origins to the teaching and the example of the Divine Master, and that it is a very clear symbol of the heavenly kingdom.” (Perfectae Caritatis, #1) This teaching of the Second Vatican Council describes how our own Benedictine Sisters have sought Christ in their own personal lives, and in their common monastic profession. Their fidelity in seeking Christ through their Benedictine way of life is at the heart of their ability to serve Christ in the members of this local Church since 1983.

I wish to offer a few passages from the Rule of St. Benedict that seem to capture what we appreciate most and will miss greatly as you take your leave from Wyoming:

San Benito Farewell 025RB # 72:11 “Prefer nothing to Christ.” And: RB #5:2     “cherish Christ above all

Sisters, your prayers; your cherishing Christ above all, are the means by which you acquire graces for us, which enable us and equip us for the mission and good work of the Church, which is the building up of God’s Kingdom.

I wish to reflect just a bit on the challenges associated with placing Christ above all else. It is indeed the priority of life required for every Christian, but it is a challenge, one involving mystery. I wish to share with you a quote from Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI:

God is indeed the Great Mystery. Of all the mysteries of life and the mysteries that accompany our life- journey of faith, God is the Great Mystery.   Initially, perhaps out of the zeal of youth and the eagerness of a Christian vocation, we can be uneasy with this Mystery. We want answers. Particularly when life throws up barriers and difficulties, we wonder about the value of the path we have chosen. We wonder why God is not more forthcoming with help or answers or direction. But eventually, by God’s grace, we grow in our comfort to simply be grateful to be enveloped by the Mystery that is God. We by faith begin to recognize that the Light in the midst of the Mystery is none other than the Light of the Risen Christ. Not all that unlike Moses who saw the burning bush, aflame yet not consumed, this same Light speaks to us, leads us, this is the Light of Christ and His Gospel. (Pope Benedict XVI)

Our Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are not unlike the women at the empty tomb who were astonished, even frightened at what they discovered. Our sisters come face to face first with the Lord, in their devotion to the Eucharist, so they can then bear this light of the Risen Christ to us, while at the same time recognize Christ in each of our faces and persons.

Sr. Josetta, Sr. Hope, Bishop Etienne, Sr. Gladys and Sr. Regina
Sr. Josetta, Sr. Hope, Bishop Etienne, Sr. Gladys and Sr. Regina

RB 4:20      “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way.”

RB 4:8        “We cannot exclude anyone. Every person we meet must be honored and loved as our brother or sister.” This sums up how the Lord’s command to love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, with all our strength is best served by our love of neighbor.

RB72:4       “We can never wait for the other person to love us first.” If we are the first to show love and respect, the others will follow.

RB4 We must prove our love with good works. Feelings and words are not enough. There are many concrete ways we can find to do this.

RB: Prologue 1:  “We must listen with the ear of our heart to the burdens and joys of others. We need to feel in ourselves what the others are feeling.”

San Benito Farewell 014Today, we wish to express our gratitude to each of you, sisters, and to all the other Benedictine sisters who have served in the Diocese of Cheyenne through your monastic community. We are grateful for the many lives you have touched and drawn closer to Christ, through your monastic profession, your example of life, your teaching, spiritual direction; in short, through your modest and humble presence in our midst.

At the same time, we acknowledge that we will no longer be a whole family without you. A Church to be whole needs the presence, example and service of monastic women. San Benito Monastery has been an oasis of prayer, and your apostolic service a witness of faith that will be deeply missed.

Just as “deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away,” (Song of Songs) we know that we will always remain in your hearts and prayers, and you will most assuredly remain in our love.

My dear Sisters, May God bless you!

Arcbishop Etienne

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