Pope Francis designated 2015 the year of consecrated religious life. The first of his three stated aims is for us to look to the past with gratitude. Gratitude is what I experience as I celebrate this Jubilee.
I am grateful to my parents, John and Aileen and my siblings for the love and life lessons I learned and experienced in belonging to the Bankemper family. I feel especially blessed and grateful to God for calling me to the community at St. Walburg Monastery and giving me life among such wonderful women. I have so much appreciation for the members of the community both living and deceased, who have loved, mentored, challenged and forgiven me over these many years.
My first profession was in 1965, the year the Vatican II Council ended. It was a time of change and huge changes were on the way. In light of the Gospel and contemporary times all religious were called to study their origins, examine the meaning and purpose of their lives and update practices for present times. As Benedictines we were founded “to seek God in community, to live under the Rule of Benedict and a prioress.” Along with countless communities our community heeded the Council’s call and since that time has engaged in examining every aspect of our lives; through ongoing in depth study of the Rule of Benedict, reclaiming our monastic heritage, revising our psalter (prayer books) even to the right sizing of our tables in the dining room to allow everyone the opportunity to hear and participate.
Throughout the many changes, a commitment to ministry has been a mainstay. My own involvement in meaningful ministry continues to be a priority. I love my work as a psychologist and the many persons I have had the privilege to serve. I feel especially blessed for the past twelve years of facilitating groups at Cancer Support Community and the Women’s Federal Prison Camp in Lexington.
It is difficult to describe how much these groups have influenced my life. They bid me to appreciate the one precious life with which I and all of us have been gifted; to recognize that it is an accident of birth to the families and situations into which one is born: that all of us make mistakes, some serious, yet all of us need forgiveness and healing. Pope Francis designated 2016 as a year of mercy. I hope his message will seep deeper into my being and allow me to walk in the shoes of those who suffer, particularly with the women in prison.
The color and beauty of my life would be less without the richness and fidelity of friends. I am thankful for their fidelity in both the good times and the difficult ones. I feel especially blessed and grateful to God for calling me to St. Walburg Monastery and giving me life among such wonderful, giving women.
Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB