COTTONWOOD, IDAHO — On Saturday Sr. Kim Marie Jordan will make her Perpetual Monastic Profession at the Monastery of St. Gertrude. The ceremony celebrates an eight-and-a-half year journey into monastic life that has included triumphs such as contributing to the monastery’s capital campaign and returning to college to study social work. It has also included the challenges of leaving her friends and family in Houston and eventually, engaging in a battle with cancer, according to a press release.
The journey unofficially began for Jordan more than 15 years ago when she visited the monastery for a two-week monastic living experience in the summer of 1997. Her son and daughter were grown and she had made several retreats at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in New Mexico. She was inspired to not only reclaim her Catholic faith but to explore the idea of religious life, she said.
“…I always felt I had a Benedictine heart,” she said. “I found several Benedictine monasteries on the internet and learned about St. Gertrude’s. All of a sudden I was on a plane to Idaho.”
According to a press release, during her stay at the monastery Jordan participated in daily life with the sisters in prayer, work, study and leisure.
“In that time I could hear God say, ‘This is it. This is where I have brought you,’” she recalled.
Jordan returned to her home in Houston to reckon with a growing sense of her calling to monastic life that was not only present in her waking hours but in her dreams. The Rev. John Robbins accompanied Kim Marie on a trip to St. Gertrude’s in June, 2003 and encouraged her to take the next step.
“He said he could see me here,” she said. “He also said that if I didn’t give myself the opportunity, I would spend the rest of my life wondering. The thing is, I knew. I just needed to give myself permission to know.”
By the following October, she sold her house, quit her job and gave away most of her belongings.
“I learned to let go and let God speak to me. You really have to do that in religious life. A lot of times this call from God is not even in your own understanding. When I made First Profession I realized that actually understanding my call wasn’t necessary. I don’t know why God chose me. What was necessary was being open to the spirit of God that flows within me. It goes back to the Rule of Benedict: to listen,” Jordan said.
During her early years at the monastery, she worked in the development office, assisting with the capital campaign and various projects in preparation for the monastery’s centennial celebration. Then three major events happened: She was accepted to the Lewis-Clark State College School of Social Work, her friend Rev. Robbins died of cancer and she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I thought it really wasn’t very fair,” she said. “At one point I felt so bad, like God had abandoned me.”
With support from her academic advisor, she attended school full-time that summer while undergoing chemotherapy and grieving the loss of her friend.
“I was also so blessed,” she said. “My son came and took care of me for several weeks. We were able to come to a new level of relationship and he eventually made some important decisions for his life. And one of the greatest blessings was the support and love of my monastic community. Without their support, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that time. It was the most perfect thing. That’s what happens in community; we love and support each other.”
Jordan is now cancer free, continuing her path to becoming a social worker and volunteering at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in the social services department. She was also recently inducted into the Phi Alpha Honor Society for academic achievement in her social work education.
“I feel called to hospital social work because you’re helping people who are vulnerable to live with dignity and have good outcomes when they leave the hospital. My experience with cancer showed me what it’s like to suffer, to be vulnerable and need help,” she said.
Jordan said she also finds a connection between social work and the Monastery of St. Gertrude’s vision statement: Prayer Awakens. Justice Impels. Compassion Acts. Thy Kingdom Come.
She finds the most relevant aspect of the community’s vision is the commitment to prayer.
“Prayer is so much a part of what it means to be Benedictine – gathering together to pray,” she said. “As challenging as it was to learn to live in community, I really feel it suits me. When we are professed, we promise obedience. I have found that obedience is about being present to one another. That’s really good for me because I am kind of a control freak and what saves me is to live in community.”
Jordan makes her Perpetual Monastic Profession in the presence of her community on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Monastery chapel. The celebrant will be the Rev. Paul English, CSB, who served as Jordan’s spiritual director at St. Anne’s Church in Houston.