Sister Stefanie shares some thoughts about what Monastic Benedictine life has meant to her … and how it differs from life on her own.
What have you found to be most challenging about your new life?
Living with other people means I can’t let my oatmeal bowl sit in the sink till I get home from work in the afternoon!
The rhythm of our life took some getting used to, as well. It’s much quieter and more balanced than my old life, where I’d teach all day, volunteer at church and sing in the choir, and go to a second job after that.
Lots of nights I wouldn’t get to bed till 1 a.m., then get up just in time to get to work the
A typical weekday for me now goes like this: get up at 6, go to Lauds at 7, eat breakfast and go to school by 8:00.
I come home at 12:30 – I miss weekday noon prayer because of my work schedule – eat lunch and begin my afternoon ministries in liturgy and vocations. We have Vespers at 5 and dinner at 5:30.
After that, maybe we’ll watch a movie or play a game of cards. Usually I’ll have some work to do for my preschool class, and the other Sisters help by cutting out shapes and doing tasks like that. We basically do the same things any family does.
What has made you happiest?
I love my Sisters, too. They are such amazing women, so warm and welcoming.
I really can’t put into words how much it means to be part of this group, all working toward the same goal. It gives me such a secure and happy feeling.
How has the experience changed you?
I know I have become much quieter. When I lived alone, I used to always have my radio or TV on. I don’t so much anymore. Quiet is nice. And my prayer life is getting deeper.
The other thing is, I am becoming more patient. Our slower and quieter lifestyle supports that.
You had your own place, your own car, a good job and good friends. That’s a lot to give up!
Well, yes and no.
Giving up my job was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I loved the kids, the faculty and the parents. I miss them and my friends. I miss the best lattes at this little coffee shop that my friends and I went to all the time.
But this is my new life, and I had to move on. You do the same thing when you get married.
Speaking of marriage, have you ever been in love?
I always thought I’d get married and have 6 kids, but I never really fell in love. I dated guys that I liked a lot, but I never felt that head-over-heels spark that you see in the movies.
And I’ve had so many kids, as a teacher, that I feel I’ve had an impact on the future.
How did you know you were being called to religious life? You could have stayed single.
I’ve had the feeling off and on since high school. I even went to live with a Franciscan community for several months when I was 30. I didn’t feel like they lived any differently than I already was living, though, in my own apartment.
After that, I concentrated on work for several years. When the feeling came back, I tried a completely contemplative and habited community in Nebraska. That wasn’t for me, either. It was too restrictive. I wouldn’t have been able to see my family.
So, I went online and found St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. This community has the right blend of apostolic and contemplative life for me. I can see my own biological family often.
For women like me, who want to work outside the community, but be a part of a family life that includes a rhythm of daily prayer and meals together, this is perfect.
This community was a wonderful fit for me. I’m an extreme introvert, but I felt the Sisters’ warmth and hospitality right away. I am very happy with this decision.