Carm celebrates 70th jubilee
"It seems to me that God has many ways of calling one to religious life," Sister Carm Ternes smiled, eyes twinkling. "In my case, as a young girl, I thought the Benedictine habits were so beautiful and exquisite! So began my vocation!"
On Monday, July 16 at Morning Prayer, the Benedictine community of the Monastery St. Gertrude celebrated Sister Carm’s 70 years of being on the monastic journey. The day was also her 92nd birthday. She renewed her Monastic Profession and was honored with a bassoon performance of “Here I Am, Lord” by Janelle Jones.
Born and raised in Strasburn, ND, Sister Carm (baptized Elizabeth) attended a school staffed by Ursulines, who often told her that she had a vocation to religious life.
A sequence of providential events, plus a dose of her usual creativity and disobedience, led young Elizabeth to Idaho. She and her best friend, Lucille, who also wanted to be a nun, met a Benedictine sister in her "angelic" habit at church, sparking the idea of joining a Benedictine community. Next, the two friends saw a postcard featuring St. Gertrude's in Idaho, and they determined that they would join the convent there.
Sister Carm's father, however, refused to take her to Idaho as it was too far away. So, Sister Carm, exhibiting her typical creativity (and just a little disobedience), started a novena to St. Terese of the Little Flower. She asked the saint to persuade her father to let her go to Idaho, and, after the third novena, a miracle happened.
"My parents' friends from Coeur d'Alene, ID, came to visit us. While at dinner my father casually asked the guests how far Cottonwood was from Coeur d'Alene. By the end of the meal, it was decided that I would return to Idaho with them and they would take me to Cottonwood.
"It suddenly hit me that I had no choice but to accept this sudden turn of events, leave all those I loved (including my best friend, Lucille), and make a lifetime commitment, for better or worse.
"I really made my perpetual profession that day," Sister Carm said. "The decision to come to Idaho was for life."
Professed in 1941, Sister Carm immediately began a teaching career that spanned nearly three decades. Her early years in the classroom were difficult and she "only lasted a few months" at her first assignment in St. Maries, ID. Eventually she began attending college and earned a BA in Education and a MA in Speech and Drama.
In addition to teaching in schools across the state, she taught at St. Gertrude's Academy and was often assigned as prefect of the boarder students - both boys and girls.
"I am amazed how, through God's grace, that I and the students survived!" she recalled.
When asked why she stayed, Sister Carm replied, "staying was never a question. When I left North Dakota, I was here for life. In fact, my Final Profession seemed to me a renewal and public commitment to my choice.
"Through the years I struggled with obedience and the fear of being able to cope with my assignments, but I never doubted my decision to come here." Sister Carm has ministered as a teacher, prefect of boarder students, Religious Ed Coordinator, Pastoral Assistant, Hospital Chaplain and Community Archivist.
"When you place your dedication to God above all other things, then graces and blessings are often a reward. This applies to religious life and every life, for that matter.
"I love community! Everyone needs a support group to belong to, to love and be loved by -- that's what marriage and family are about, too, really. Community is the best thing about being a Sister at St. Gertrude's."
Sister Carm receives the community blessing.
Sister Carm Ternes of the Monastery of St. Gertrude renewed her Monastic Profession on July 16 at Morning Prayer.
Sr. Meg Sass to celebrate 50th year of Monastic Profession
A lot can change in the course of 50 years – which is why Sister Meg Sass of the Monastery of St. Gertrude recently spent a whole month in retreat to understand the ongoing meaning of her call to religious life.
“Fifty years ago Vatican II had just come on the horizon” recalls Sister Meg. “We were in habits and I taught in a habit. Life was much more structured – an outer-directed kind of life. Now a lot of externals have changed but not the internals.”
Raised in Twin Falls, a rapid succession of events in her teens led her to recognize her call although her parents gave her the freedom to explore religious life at her own pace. “It was their levelheadedness that helped me both discern and live my vocation,” says Sister Meg.
After entering, she completed her junior and senior year of high school and started college as a novice. Then she finished her Bachelor’s degree at Gonzaga University and University of Idaho. In 1962, she made her First Monastic Profession. She taught school for 13 years before heading to Chicago’s Loyola University for a Master in Pastoral Studies.
“Chicago was a wonderful time,” she remembers. “I got to experience all the different cultures and had my first entrée into social organization.” Witnessing the effects of gentrification on immigrant communities, she began a program to give useable items that Loyola students would discard at the end of the year to underprivileged families.
Back in Idaho, Sister Meg found herself working with an ecumenical team of ministers in Lewiston that were focused on improving care of the elderly. At the encouragement of Sister Mary Kay Henry, she then responded to an ad from the Spokane diocese for a Director of Social Ministry.
At first, she was intimidated that the scope of leadership for the position included all of Eastern Washington. She held off applying. But then the focus of the work became two Spokane County parishes and she agreed to serve there.
“It is interesting that the job eventually expanded to include all of Eastern Washington anyway,” she muses. “But I loved it.” She helped found a family services center called Our Place in 1987 that is still serving families to this day.
After 13 years in Spokane, Sister Meg was called home to the Monastery to be Assistant Prioress to Sister Jean Lalande. This term of leadership saw the building of Spirit Center, a retreat facility, along with ambitious Monastery renovations.
Building Spirit Center was a risk for the Monastery but it was a call, Sister Meg feels, they couldn’t ignore. “Like everyone else in the world, even the Monastery is challenged to walk in uncertainty. But whatever the future brings, God is already there,” she explains. “As people move faster and faster, they are going to need places to slow down and ground. As a community, we can offer this beautiful place we’ve been given.”
She has also served at the Boise diocesan center as Regional Coordinator for Parish Life and Faith Formation, working with the northern part of the state from Riggins to Canada.
Sister Meg has pondered how a monastic community in rural Idaho can change the world. “There are so many problems in the world we can’t even imagine,” she says. “Many people don’t even have a cup of water. The Monastery says maybe we can’t fix these problems, but we can pray for them. We can tap into the power of God for whom nothing is impossible.”
“Monastic life taught me how to pray,” she explains. “In particular Sister Josepha, who was challenged by being both blind and deaf, taught me to pray for perseverance, to pray that I stay faithful. I don’t want to drift. Nor do I want to stay because it’s the easiest thing to do. And let’s face it: There’s no retiring in religious life. But I want a relationship with God and I really believe doing it with a group of people whose emphasis is on prayer is the best way to do that. That’s what struck me in my month-long retreat: I still love the people of Idaho and love serving them as a Benedictine Sister.”
Sister Meg will celebrate her 50th Jubilee in the Monastery chapel on July 28 at 1:30 p.m. There will be a reception to follow. All are welcome. She will also celebrate at Sacred Heart Parish in Boise on August 15 at the 7 p.m. Mass.
Sister Carolyn Miguel celebrated her 25th Jubilee in the presence of the community at evening prayer on July 11. She renewed her monastic vows with her daughter, Nan Miguel of Grangeville, by her side.