Ruth Ksycki was a young girl when she saw something that would change her life forever. She saw the sun rise slowly, brilliantly, silently. She saw its golden rays bloom atop the treeline near the cabin where her family stayed, and shimmer languidly upon the calm waters of the lake below. At 12 years old, she saw … and felt … and sensed … everything.
Today a Benedictine Sister of St. Mary Monastery (shown above right, during the Installation Ceremony of Prioress Sr. Phyllis McMurray), Sister Ruth cherishes that experience as a sacred one. It was, she says, a window into eternity, “an experience of awe and light.” Indeed, it was the beginning of her vocation.
“After that morning I was always looking for something else,” she says. “I didn’t actually know I would become a Sister, but I had a hunger.”
Throughout grade and junior high school, Ruth got to know the Benedictine Sisters. She arrived in their classrooms before the school year began to help them prepare for their students. She listened to them chant Vespers through the open windows of the convent chapel (the chapel was near the parish hall, where Ruth’s youth group met). And, when one of the Sisters died, she marveled at how kind and compassionate they behaved toward one another.
“I thought very vaguely that I should replace her, carry on her work,” Sr. Ruth says.
By high school, though, Ruth had put such thoughts aside. Now taught by an apostolic order to which she was not as attracted, Ruth concentrated on intramural sports, football games, dances and dating.
“I wanted to have fun and not think about it,” Sr. Ruth says.
But the feeling came back again. This time, it was stronger. Toward the end of high school, Ruth traveled to both communities – St. Mary Monastery and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet – for visits. She wasn’t surprised at her feelings.
“I always loved and admired the Benedictines,” she says. “They were so considerate and loving and kind. They looked out for one another. The other community was too big for me. They didn’t all know one another. It wasn’t a fit for me.”
The sense of family and of belonging that Ruth experienced among the Benedictines turned out to be at least part of what she was looking for. One of the ways she could tell – after she entered – was that she didn’t get homesick.
“I had been the most homesick kid, growing up,” Sr. Ruth says. “I wouldn’t even stay with my grandmother although I wanted to. But when I got to the convent, I never looked back.
“I just loved the prayer. We were as busy as all get-out with classes and manual labor. But I loved the Sisters, the prayer, the time for reflection, the life. I still do. Entering the convent helped satisfy my need to seek more. It’s helped me grow in spirit so very much. I am so grateful I listened and said, Yes.”