Petronilla celebrates 70th year of Monastic Profession
For those present at Sister Petronilla’s 70th Anniversary of Monastic Profession on July 27, 2010, it was hard to miss the recurring themes of determination and wholeheartedness. And for someone who left her home in Minnesota at the age of 18 to enter the Monastery of St. Gertrude, courage and commitment are as obvious as her black habit and cross.
Prioress Sister Clarissa Goeckner spoke immediately after Sister Petronilla renewed her vows. “You have been a mentor, guide and wisdom figure among us. Thanks for your determination, your commitment to the community, your dedication to ministry and your spirit of gratitude.”
Answering God’s call to the religious life wasn’t easy. Her mother objected due to sympathies for a young man who was sweet on her daughter – and in the thirties, Minnesota was a whole lot farther away. But she left her home on September 29, 1938, saying all the way to Cottonwood, “I won’t give up, even if it kills me!”
Sister Petronilla made her First Monastic Profession on June 29, 1940 and since then has served in a wide range of ministries: As cook at St. Paul’s School in Nampa and then at St. Gertrude’s Academy – and then as head of the Dietary Department at St. Mary’s Hospital for 14 years.
Sister Clarissa added, “Petronilla always went out of boundaries to serve…at retreats, dinner dance events….Truly she fed multitudes and they were satisfied!” She also noted that Sister Petronilla’s roles allowed her to come in contact with large numbers of people with whom she could share her passion for the Gospels.
In 1991, Sister Petronilla suffered a massive stroke that would test her determined spirit. With rehabilitation, she learned to walk again. All the way through therapy she declared, “I’m going to get well again, even if it kills me!”
Upon her recovery, Sister Petronilla jumped into parish ministry: first at St. Rita’s Parish in Kellogg, Idaho and then at St. Theresa’s Parish in Orofino, Idaho. These opportunities gave her the opportunity to express even more of her creativity and her love of people. After retiring, she ministered to inmates at the North Idaho Correctional Center.
Now, at age 90, Sister Petronilla’s eyes are alight with the illumination of a 70-year-commitment. “I just take each day as it comes,” she says.
To conclude her Profession anniversary ceremony, all the community joined hands and chanted back to Sister Petronilla what those who have known her have heard all through her ministry: “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!”
Sister Chanelle Schuler presents Sister Petronilla with a rose at the celebration dinner for Sister Petronilla’s 70th Anniversary of Monastic profession.