Changing of the Guard

On the day I changed places with Sister Monika and became subprioress, at dinner time she made me an official present: the telephone she had used in her bedroom to receive night time emergency calls. Well, I was thrilled.

The phone and I had a running battle for years—until at last that thorn was removed from my side by a kindly prioress. Amazing how many people called us when they thought they were calling St. Peter Hospital! Our numbers were listed one after the other in the phone book, so I guess it was inevitable.

On February 15 at dinner, I won't have a phone set to hand to my successor, Sister Anna-Camille. Pretty sure she won't feel deprived though. As of midnight that evening, she will be subprioress, and may her sleep interruptions be few.

Being subprioress is an important ministry in any community. First, do whatever the prioress tells you. Secondly, don't get too self-important; St. Benedict was very clear on that. A community only needs one prioress. Even when the prioress is away, and the subprioress is responsible for the care and safety of the community, she should beware of making decisions that are not hers to make—except in the case of emergency, and then she needs to use good judgment, and quickly, for the sake of all concerned.

St. Benedict also tells us to take counsel in all things so that we will not be sorry later. A subprioress (or anyone) may call on others in the community when she is not sure of an advisable course of action, and ask them for advice—especially when acting in the prioress's place. Like the prioress, if she deems her judgment in the situation better, she need not necessarily take such advice, but in my opinion it's well at least to seek it, in case someone else has a better idea based on experience.

The subprioress also needs to help her prioress with respectful but honest responses when asked her opinion. “Yes-women” not needed. She may also need to help a busy prioress remember important occasions that might not necessarily be on the community calendar.

For quite a while after I was appointed subprioress, I was unsure why Sisters would come to me to report that they were not feeling well and wouldn't be at prayers. Yes, I was a bit slow. Sisters come and advise the subprioress in order not to bother the prioress—who may have a lot on her mind. Sometimes they also come with other concerns important to them, when they think their troubles not serious enough to take to the prioress, but need someone to listen to them. It's not always easy to make time for these conversations, but it's important to do so. This is true not only in monastic communities, but in every walk of life. The one who has no trusted person to listen to such concerns truly suffers.

I think Sister Anna-Camille will likely be a little quicker to catch on to some things than I was, and I'm glad for that. And while she is confident, she doesn't mind asking for the advice of others. She is thoughtful, prayerful, and grounded—all important qualities for being a stabilizing influence in the community. May God bless her in her new ministry!



  • Comment posted by Paz Vital on February 9, 2024 at 8:43PM (4 months ago)

    Thank you Sr Dorothy for your great ministry as subprioress ❤️

    • Comment posted by Dorothy on February 10, 2024 at 10:41AM (4 months ago)

      My pleasure, Sr. Paz!

  • Comment posted by Anna Peterson on February 9, 2024 at 4:23PM (4 months ago)

    Sister Anna-Camille will do a wonderful job🙂💕

    • Comment posted by Dorothy on February 9, 2024 at 6:49PM (4 months ago)

      Thank you, Anna--I totally agree! (smiles)

  • Comment posted by Marion Laurendeau on February 9, 2024 at 12:48PM (4 months ago)

    It was my honor to have met Sr. Dorothy through my involvement in RCIA at my parish in 1992/23? She is an inspiration in my life and I am proud to call her friend.

    • Comment posted by Dorothy on February 9, 2024 at 6:48PM (4 months ago)

      Hello, Marion! that Covid stuff sure put a monkey wrench in the middle of all my social plans. But maybe ONE of these days we can get together and catch up! love, Dorothy

  • Comment posted by Pam Odam on February 9, 2024 at 11:38AM (4 months ago)

    Thank you for your service to the Priory and the friends of the Priory. Congratulations on being able to lay down your burden and pass it on to Sister Anna-Camille.

    • Comment posted by Dorothy on February 9, 2024 at 6:51PM (4 months ago)

      You're welcome, Pam--it has been a great privilege. And with a good successor, I will be happy to do other things now (smiles)

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