Clarissa re-elected as Prioress
On Wednesday, March 16, Sister Clarissa Goeckner, OSB was re-elected prioress by the Benedictine Sisters of the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho after a three-day process of prayer and consensus-making.
As the 13th prioress of the community, Sister Clarissa's first term has included serving as spiritual leader and director of strategic planning. She has also overseen the capital campaign, celebration of the centennial in 2009, opening of the Inn at St. Gertrude and launch of the Spirituality and the Arts program.
"I am deeply committed to the monastic community, the directions that we embrace together, and the many ways we touch the world through our corporate ministries: Spirituality Ministry, the Historical Museum, and stewardship of our land; as well as our new bed and breakfast, the Healing Center, the Book and Gift Shop, and all the work of Sisters on mission," she says. "It's an honor to serve as a leader and catalyst for promoting our ministries which embody our core values of healing hospitality, grateful simplicity and creative peacemaking."
Sister Clarissa was born on May 22, 1939 in Cottonwood -- just a few miles down the road from St. Gertrude's. She attended St. Joseph's elementary and St. Gertrude's Academy. She entered the Monastery in 1957 and made final profession on August 11, 1961. She received her bachelor's degree in English from St. Martin's University.
She holds three masters degrees from University of San Francisco in Leadership, Religious Education and Counseling and has spent a long career in education. She taught at St. Anthony's in Pocatello, Sacred Heart in Boise, Sts. Peter and Paul in Grangeville and St. Mary's in Boise, where she was also the principal. She taught at Presentation High School in San Francisco and has served as University of San Francisco's associate director of campus ministry.
In 1989 she was appointed assistant prioress at St. Gertrude's. During this time she taught outreach classes and served as adjunct faculty member for Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston. In 1993 she became coordinator of Children's and Family Catechesis for the Diocese of Boise. In 2004 Bishop Michael Driscoll appointed her to direct the Office of Catholic Education Ministries for the diocese. In addition to these full-time positions she has participated on national, diocesan, local and Monastery committees.
Bishop Driscoll released this statement: “I am pleased to see Sister Clarissa will serve as prioress of the Monastery of St. Gertrude for another term. The Benedictine Sisters have served the Camas Prairie community and Catholics throughout Idaho and beyond well for many years and we have been blessed by their ministry. I congratulate Sister Clarissa and all the members of the Benedictine community in Cottonwood for their careful discernment throughout the process. I pray that God will continue to bless them, and that their community will continue to grow in numbers and strength in the years to come.”
Sister Clarissa has served as prioress for six years and having now been re-elected, will serve an additional four years. "I am honored to lead such a talented and generous group of Sisters. Their collaborative ways assure me that their support will be wholehearted and we will be able to move ahead with great hope."
The entire community met for the prayerful discernment in which Sister Clarissa was re-elected. The community reviewed their directions and goals then set about identifying who among them possessed the qualities to lead at this time. Contrary to typical elections, the group seeks "convergence and consensus" through a facilitated process of prayer, discussions and nominee presentations.
The facilitators were Sister Jane Becker, OSB from the Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana and Sister Mary Jane Vergotz, OSB from Mt. St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pennsylvania. Sister Joella Kidwell, OSB, president of the Benedictine Federation of St. Gertrude, presided.
"It was a blessing to my monastic vocation to have had the opportunity to share this holy time," says Sister Mary Jane Vergotz. "I experienced a group of women who are spirit-filled, hopeful, prayerful, and sincerely seeking God as a monastic community."
The St. Gertrude's community was founded in 1882 by three Sisters who came from the Benedictine Monastery in Sarnen, Switzerland. Settling first in Oregon and Washington, the Sisters then moved its leadership and novitiate in April 1909 to Cottonwood.
The celebration to affirm Sister Clarissa's re-election as prioress is June 11 in the chapel of the Monastery of St. Gertrude.