Tag Archives: monastery of st. gertrude

After 8-year journey, Benedictine sister takes official vows

Tracy Simmons

Sr. Kim Marie Jordan serves at the Monastery of St. Gertrude/Contributed

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.

Busyness becomes form of pride

By Contributor Sr. Teresa Jackson

Sr. Teresa Jackson

I hate it when homilists are right.  Not just right about interesting pieces of Bible trivia or right in saying nice, affirming things.  I hate it when they are right about things that really force me to take a cold, hard look at myself.

Our chaplain here at the monastery gave a homily in which he quoted from a Benedictine abbot (talk about hitting below the belt) who said that busyness can be form of pride.  Uh-oh, this isn’t looking good.  In fact he linked it to the ancient monastic teaching that pride is one of the patterns of thought that led us away from God, a teaching that evolved into the idea of the seven deadly sins during the Middle Ages.

So why is busyness linked with pride?  I’m not sure I remember exactly what he said, and I don’t need to.  In many ways I’m an expert on the subject.

When I first came to the monastery one of the greatest struggles I had was that it was an experience of completely starting over.  I no longer had my previous identity, no one knew me, what I had previously done or achieved didn’t matter.  I had to start over and learn to be a monastic, a Benedictine sister.  For those first few years I wanted to wear a sign around my neck: “I used to be a busy, important person.”  In starting over I was stripped of my hard-earned sense of being a capable, competent professional.  I had to start from scratch and learn all the things that were important about being a monastic, most of which had nothing to do with my previous life.

Now, almost 15 years later, I have regained my sense of being a competent person, but that is not all good.  Hard work is a key value in our Benedictine culture.  Whether it is our German and Swiss heritage, simply the fact that it takes hard work to keep a monastery functioning or whatever else, we work hard.  And, probably unconsciously, we pride ourselves on how hard we work and judge others according to how hard they work.

Maybe it is an unfortunate part of human nature, the need to distinguish ourselves from one another, to judge others.  In a monastery it is hard to tell how someone is praying but it is pretty easy to tell (or so we think) how hard someone is working.  In a culture where we can’t judge one another by how much money we make, there are no strong indicators of status, we are left with work and busyness as a way to distinguish one another.  And this is where pride comes in.

A sister complains about how busy she is and I catch myself thinking “doing what?!”  Another seems to be everywhere, always helping with what needs to be done and I find my opinion of her as a “good community member” rising.  My opinion isn’t based on who they are as people, whether they are committed to the hard, inner work of transformation in a monastery but on how hard they work at the never-ending tasks that comprise modern, monastic life.

It’s a subtle, tricky trap that creeps up and swallows us.  The real hard work that all of us should be doing is what is outlined in the rule and in the Gospels.  Benedict was concerned about whether monks were growing in humility, growing into the full stature of Christ.  He wanted them to commit to the monastic way of deep service, awareness of God, experiencing compunction that would be transformed into the joy of knowing God.  This is the real hard work of monastic life and the life of faith in every tradition.  It has nothing to do with how many committees we are on, how many hours we spend in our offices, how many tasks we complete or how hard people think we work.  This is the true work of monastic life, the true work of faith.

G.K. Chesterson once said, “It isn’t that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and never tried.”

One could easily apply the same insight to monastic life.  The hard work we should really be about will never lead to pride.  The hard work of monastic life is that which leads to humility, the profound realization of grace, that when we cling tightly to our work it will turn to ashes in our hands.  Our true work is to open our hands in hope, supplication, praise, ready to receive the grace that requires no work on our part.

Meet Sr. Teresa Jackson, our monastic spirituality writer

Sr. Teresa Jackson

Sister Teresa Jackson is a Benedictine sister of the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho. There she serves as the membership coordinator and works with volunteers, oblates [lay members] and women interested in joining the monastery. She is also  a spiritual director.

She writes about how the ancient way of monastic spirituality can speak to the needs of people in the modern world, both inside and outside the monastery.

Email:  volunteer@stgertrudes.org

Website: www.stgertrudes.org