New prioress seeks to advance community’s goals

| Susan Klemond | May 1, 2019 | 0 Comments
Sister Catherine Nehotte, right, stands with other members of the leadership team in the chapel at St. Paul’s Monastery in Maplewood: Sisters Linda Soler, left, Mary White and Jacqueline Leiter.

Sister Catherine Nehotte, right, stands with other members of the leadership team in the chapel at St. Paul’s Monastery in Maplewood: Sisters Linda Soler, left, Mary White and Jacqueline Leiter. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

Following a year-long process described as visionary, democratic and a little mysterious, the 30 vowed Benedictine sisters who belong to St. Paul’s Monastery in Maplewood elected Sister Catherine Nehotte as their 12th prioress in late March.

Representing what one sister called “the next perspective” in leadership, Sister Catherine, 57, and the leadership team that will assist her during her five-year term, will seek to meet goals developed by the community’s members, including evaluating their vocation and hospitality ministries and care of creation.

The election “is truly a spiritual experience, and we have to rely truly on God for that right sister that is to be called,” said Sister Linda Soler, 58, who will serve as subprioress.

Sister Catherine’s election reveals something of the inner workings of the monastery, which has faced changes since its founding in 1948, including opening land on its campus to new institutions, its sisters’ aging, an ebb in vowed vocations and growth in associate, oblate and lay involvement.

At the start of the election process, which the sisters have followed for at least 30 years, they first discerned in prayer future directions for the community, said Sister Paula Hagen, the monastery’s outgoing prioress. Like other U.S. Benedictine monasteries of sisters, they elect a prioress, whereas European abbeys elect an abbess.

At the end of March, the sisters identified gifts and abilities needed to accomplish their goals and recommended sisters possessing them. Nominees addressed the community and answered questions.

“There’s no campaigning involved in this,” Sister Catherine said. “It’s really a lot of deep listening as far as who might have the gifts to lead us in the next term of office.”

When they appeared to have a consensus, the sisters formally voted in the presence of the president of their federation, which represents a number of Benedictine communities in and outside the United States, Sister Catherine said.

Installation will occur May 5 during morning prayer. After Sister Catherine confirms her intent to serve, vowed community members will affirm and acknowledge her. Celebration of the Eucharist and an open house will follow.

Sister Catherine said she was surprised and humbled by her election.

“For some reason I’m being asked,” she said. “God will give the gifts needed. I totally depend on the grace of God.”

A leadership team will assist Sister Catherine, and she will work with a council of sisters and the overall community, Sister Linda said.

As the civil and spiritual leader within the community and president of the community’s corporation, the prioress is also “relying a lot on relationships with each sister in the community, knowing that the gifts of each are required to help the community be its best,” Sister Catherine said.

A south Minneapolis native, Sister Catherine earned a business administration degree at the then-College of St. Thomas in St. Paul. During more than 30 years at the monastery, she has worked in accounting and finance, massage and in human resources at Tubman, an agency based on the monastery campus that provides safety and help to women, children and families struggling with domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health.

Sister Catherine’s qualities include listening and compassion along with a commitment to Benedictine values, said Sister Paula, a community member for more than 60 years. She hopes that Sister Catherine “will be able to listen to the sisters, the Gospel and the needs of our time” and “to practice the Gospel and the rule of St. Benedict.”

During her own term, Sister Paula said, she saw her role as a bridge between past and future. “There’s a spirit of being connected to the past but moving forward into responding to the needs as they are existing today.”

The Holy Spirit calls the right person at the right time, said Sister Linda, citing Sister Catherine’s leadership, life experiences and compassion.

The election process helps the community focus on the future, and God will work in unknown ways during Sister Catherine’s term, Sister Linda said.

“There’s a reason she’s being called, and that gets discovered over the next five years between God and Sister Catherine.”

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Featured, Local News