On Friday, June 5, at the end of a very prayerful and grace-filled discernment process, Sister Beverly Raway was elected the 14th Prioress of our community. She will be installed as Prioress on August 15, 2015. In the meantime, her title is ‘Prioress-elect. She will serve a six-year term.
The Benedictine Sisters entered a sacred time of Discernment and Election on the evening of June 2, led by two experienced facilitators from other communities. Discernment began by reviewing the Direction Statements that we wrote with the same facilitators in January. It is a process guided by the Holy Spirit, and focuses on what each Sister thinks best for the community, not just for herself.
The Sisters spent most of Wednesday considering what kind of person could best lead the community to move in those directions – what characteristics, skills, experiences and knowledge would best prepare her to be the leader at this time. At the end of the day, names of sisters who might have some of these characteristics were proposed. Thursday was devoted to a variety of ways of prayerful listening to and questioning these sisters, to help the community develop a sense of what each might bring to the role of prioress, how they see the needs of the community, and how they might lead the community in carrying out our chosen direction statements.
Our monastery is blessed with many sisters who have abundant gifts. One result of this day’s work was a sense of gratitude for those blessings – and recognition that each of those sisters would continue to contribute to our community life no matter which was chosen. On Friday, the facilitators guided the community to choose among the names, using a variety of ways to explore where the Holy Spirit was drawing a convergence.
When it appeared that the community had converged in its choice for leadership, the Sisters gathered formally in Rockhurst Meeting Room for the election, which is carried out in accordance with canon law and the norms of our Federation. The ballots were cast, one-by-one, in solemn silence and tallied by the tellers. The result was announced by the Federation President, Sister Susan Hutchens.
Election as Prioress is not simply a matter of receiving the votes. The Sister herself is asked whether she accepts election. (A similar process is used with the election of a Pope.) In our monastic tradition, before the Federation President asks that question, each sister comes forward to express to the Sister they have chosen how they will support her in carrying out her office. Only after she has heard from each of the sisters is she asked, “Do you accept election as Prioress?” Sister Beverly said, “Yes.”
Sister Beverly is an Associate Professor of Nursing in our College of St. Scholastica. She teaches medical surgical nursing, pain management and evidence-based practice to undergraduate students. She has been central in organizing and leading service-learning trips to our Twinning monasteries in Tanzania. She is a trustee on the Board of Directors of the Benedictine Health System and a member of the Institutional Review Board of the Essentia Institute of Rural Health.
At the conclusion of the election, the Federation President requested that we all offer prayers during this time of transition – prayers for Sister Beverly as she prepares to assume this difficult and important role, and also prayers for Sister Lois Eckes, who will be experiencing her own transition as she concludes ten years of service as Prioress.
Sister Lois remains Prioress until August 15 and will work closely with Sister Beverly to make the transition of leadership as smooth and gracious as possible. After her term ends, Sister Lois says, “I will continue living at the monastery but will have some time to rest, pray more and travel a bit to visit family and friends, and to enjoy spending leisurely time in nature before entering into full-time ministry again.”
Please join us in praying for our prioress-elect and our current prioress.