By Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross
Benedictine Sister Beverly Raway was elected prioress of Duluth’s St. Scholastica Monastery in June and will be installed in her new role Aug. 15. She succeeds Sister Lois Eckes, who has served in the role for the past 10 years.
According to the Rule of St. Benedict, the prioress “is believed to hold the place of Christ” in a servant leadership role. Sister Beverly said it means being the “servant of the servants of the Lord.”
Sister Beverly Raway
In the case of St. Scholastica, this involves (with a lot of help) leading the sisters and caring for each of their souls; guiding major ministries like the Benedictine Health Center, the College of St. Scholastica and the Catholic entities of Essentia Health; working with other Benedictine communities with which St. Scholastica has a relationship in Tanzania and Chile; and more.
Sister Beverly said she comes in with a hopeful vision for the future of the community that buries the word “diminishment.”
Her first official ceremony, she said, comes the day after her installation, when she will commission the sisters. “The theme that I’m going to use is, ‘The gift you have received, the gift that you are, give as a gift,’” which she said is derived from Matthew’s Gospel.
She said it is important to talk about abundance, “because we’ve been given an abundance of gifts, and they haven’t gone away.” They include education, their common life, family support, support of people in the community and diocese, and the legacy of the sisters who have gone before.
Sister Beverly said they must be used to serve the people of the diocese, the church and the world “in whatever capacity we have.”
Each of the sisters has gifts. “Use that power and go out and do what you can do with it,” she said.
Of that vision and dream, Sister Lois responded, “That’s pretty big and wonderful.”
“The last 10 years have been years of tremendous grace,” Sister Lois said.
Her goal was to “serve the community as a heart of Christ,” both in the church and in the wider world.
“So that has always been my prayer, and I have tried to do that,” she said. “I haven’t always succeeded, but God is good and merciful, and so are others.”
During the time, the community has been blessed with a number of new vocations. At the same time, she said the most painful part was the sisters who had died.
“For them we rejoice,” she said. But sometimes the deaths have come so close together it’s difficult to grieve.
During her time as prioress there was an apostolic visitation of religious communities in the United States, which she said was initially painful but ended up being a moment of grace.
Sister Lois said during the past decade there has been progress in the community’s ministries, like the Shalom program that forms spiritual directors, and in efforts to build Catholic and Benedictine values in the organizations affiliated with St. Scholastica Monastery, like the college and health systems.
Sister Beverly said selecting a new prioress “is a deeply spiritual process, and it began months before the election.”
It began with a community discussion, led by two facilitators, discerning the community’s future direction over the six years of the next prioress’ term. Then in subsequent months, the sisters of the monastery met to discuss different articles, pondering the qualities that would be needed in a new prioress.
They began surfacing names — up to 22 of them.
As the list was narrowed down through further discussion, those under consideration as the next prioress prepared statements on what qualities they could bring to the role and how they would carry out the directions that had been discerned by the community over those months. Sisters were able to dialogue with the candidates, asking them further questions in a spirit of open, candid and mature dialogue.
That might sound kind of nerve wracking, but Sister Beverly said it wasn’t: “It was such a peaceful process,” she said, and one that grew more peaceful as the outcome became clear.
“I felt more and more calm as the process went on,” she said. Sister Lois said she remembers the same thing happening to her, because God’s direction was becoming clear through the process.
When the final election was done, each sister came up and offered support, and Sister Beverly formally accepted the new role, a moment she described as “very emotional.”
Tearing up as she thought of it, the Belgian-French prioress elect said, “My father gave me this gift of tears.”