Saying yes: Two Benedictine sisters to make final profession July 11

Benedictine Sisters Bridgette Powers and Laura Suhr have been friends since their college days.

Both students at the College of St. Benedict, they met through another Benedictine sister when they helped plan a retreat and have been friends ever since.

Sister Laura Suhr, left, and Sister Bridgette Powers met at the College of sT. Benedict and will make perpetual monastic profession July 11. (Dianne Towalski/The Central Minnesota Catholic)

The two will now take the final step in their vocation journey together. Sister Bridgette and Sister Laura are both set to make their perpetual monastic profession July 11, the feast of St. Benedict, at St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph.

They are committing to a lifelong journey of seeking God in community according to the Gospel and the Rule of Benedict. This includes a commitment to stability, the monastic way of life, obedience, chastity and poverty.

When Sister Bridgette was a child, she thought she might be an actress on Broadway, she said. She was active in theater at her high school in Montevideo, Minnesota.

But her mind changed when she was asked to attend Youth in Theology and Ministry, a summer program run by the St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary at St. John’s University in Collegeville.

“I just had a wonderful time, and I realized there were people who studied theology that weren’t priests. There were people who were actually discerning religious life, and that was really interesting to me,” she said. “All of a sudden after YTM, my interest switched from wanting to be an actress to wanting to study theology.”

Her experiences at YTM made her realize that, following high school, the College of St. Benedict was where she belonged.

“I went to St. Ben’s and I loved spending time with the sisters,” Sister Bridgette said. “I loved my time in Benedictine Friends, a wonderful program that connects sisters and students. I remember walking with my roommate past the goldfish pond and thinking, and I said it out loud to her, ‘I think I could be happy here forever.’”

“I had no idea what that meant,” she laughed.

Sister Laura said she always wanted to be a mom.

She assumed she would go to college, meet Mr. Right and get married. But her mind changed when, as a student, she encountered the sisters at St. Ben’s.

“I saw the sisters on campus and I just felt a call from God, I guess,” she said. “And so, I felt like at that point I could no longer pursue dating with the intent to marry, because there was now this other thing that was slowly growing on my heart.”

She visited with the sisters’ vocation director and was encouraged to take time to have a career and little more independence, rather than go directly from home to college to the monastery.

Her degree from St. Ben’s is in elementary education, so she decided to take a teaching position.

“Teaching in a Catholic school always made sense,” she said. “I didn’t have a lot of loans so I felt like I could really give back. It just felt like my call was to serve the Church in that way.”

She spent the first year close to home as a substitute teacher in Hutchinson, Minnesota, where she is from. Then she taught third- and fourth-grade for a year at St. Peter Catholic School in Canby, Minnesota, followed by four years teaching fifth- and sixth-grade at Christ the King School in Browerville.

During that time, she looked at several different religious orders.

“Every order I was looking at was really beautiful and I loved the way they were serving God,” Sister Laura said. “But St. Ben’s is home for me. I always just had that sense.”

The biggest draw was the prayer life of the sisters, she said. She professed first vows in 2018.

“Now being here, I just absolutely love the rhythm of the prayers,” she said. “Praying together as a community, that’s really good for me. It’s that sense of community being primary.”

Sister Bridgette spent time after college volunteering with Dominican Volunteers USA. She worked in Chicago as a youth minister and confirmation teacher in a predominantly Latino parish.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “And as part of the experience I lived with two Dominican sisters. Those poor sisters, I talked about St. Benedict’s Monastery all the time!”

She always knew that St. Ben’s was where she wanted to be.

“I went to the School of Theology for my master of divinity degree and, just in that time, I seriously discerned joining here.”

While she was earning her degree, Sister Bridgette started attending prayer every morning at St. John’s. She enjoyed it and felt sad when she realized she wouldn’t be able to do it anymore once she graduated.

“But then this voice inside me said, well, you don’t have to leave. It was just kind of a nudge to say: ‘You should think about joining St. Benedict’s.’”

Sister Bridgette professed first vows in 2017. Since then, she has been working in the sisters’ Spirituality Center offering hospitality to visitors and helping with technology.

“When the pandemic happened, I was teaching a lot of the sisters how to Zoom,” she said.

Sister Bridgette also has been serving as co-director of the monastery’s Benedictine Friends program. After July 11 she will become its director.

“I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s a great program that allows students to spend time with sisters and get to know them,” she said.
“I think as the number of sisters gets smaller, often students don’t get to know what a sister is or meet a sister. So, in that way, it’s really positive.”

Sister Laura will finish her master of theological studies degree with a focus on liturgy from St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary this summer. She has been the director of the monastery’s Girls, God and Good Times (3G) summer camp for the past two years and hopes to continue with that.

Both sisters are looking forward to their final profession.

“I feel like this gives me peace,” Sister Laura said. “And actually, preparing for final profession, I felt a sense of moving from peace to joy. I just have a sense of joy. I’m saying yes to this for the rest of my life.”

Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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