Local News

Parish, family, say goodbye as Wavra steps into religious life

By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND

On Nov. 25, St. Bernard, Thief River Falls, hosted an open house to say farewell to Elizabeth Wavra who began her postulancy with the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Mo., on Dec. 2.

Elizabeth, 32, is the youngest of Mike and Cindi Wavra’s three children. The Wavras are parishioners at St. Bernard.

Her postulancy began with a ceremony where she knocked on the door and was welcomed into the chapel by the community’s Prioress General, Sister Dawn Annette Mills.

“The place is beautiful and the sisters were all so kind and so welcoming,” said Cindi. She and Mike attended the ceremony.

“She’s happy, we’re happy for her, and it was a beautiful experience,” said Cindi.

Mike described the ceremony as quick but powerful. The sisters prayed over her and she received her prayer books.

“Just seeing her face … she’s very comfortable with it,” he said. “This is another step, but this is a big one for her.”

“She told us to get rid of her stuff at home here,” said Cindi. “That’s hard, but she’s doing it. This is what her decision is. She’s going into it whole-heartedly and so we are too.”

Elizabeth will spend 12-18 months discerning as a postulant before possibly entering the novitiate. The novitiate lasts for two years and ends with the first profession of vows. During this time, the sisters will also be discerning whether she is a good fit for their community.

“The discernment works in two directions. It’s not only her discerning where she wants to be, it’s if the sisters there feel that she should be there,” said Mike.

ELIZABETH’S JOURNEY

Cindi’s sister, Sister Denise Schonhardt, is a Benedictine sister of Mount Saint Benedict in Crookston. Mike said having a religious sister in the family was a good example for their children.

“Elizabeth and all of our kids have always known that the sisterhood and things like that are a natural part of a family,” he said.

Cindi said Elizabeth has been open to a religious vocation since she was in high school.

Elizabeth earned a degree in elementary education at Bemidji State University and taught for a few, but remained open to a religious vocation.

“The last five or six years is when she became more serious about it, and about a year and a half or two years ago, she called us up one morning and said ‘I’m doing it’,” Cindi said.

This began a process of visiting various convents and monasteries before deciding to enter the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

“She went to several places where it just wasn’t right and she knew it,” said Mike. “She went to places that weren’t right and they knew it.”

Cindi said Elizabeth’s spiritual director, Sister Shawn Carruth, Prioress of Mount Saint Benedict in Crookston, suggested she look into the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

SUPPORTING DISCERNMENT

Mike said they made sure their children knew religious vocations were something to consider.

“It’s part of what we are. We’re Catholics and we have to invite these things. She was never afraid to talk to us about it. We would never discourage our kids from something like that,” he said.

“I don’t know what we did,” said Cindi. “All three of our kids are just really good. The other two are married and have good families and good spouses and Elizabeth chose this.”

“Liz was never one to simply follow the crowd and do what they do simply because they were doing it,” said her brother, Aaron Wavra. He and his family live in Spirit Lake, Iowa. “She has always lived her own life the way she wants to live it. I think this provided her the time and the opportunity to ask God what he wanted for her and put the pieces of her puzzle together to understand what God’s will is for her.”

Mike and Cindi said their parish has been very supportive of Liz.

“It’s a parish thing and a family thing,” said Mike. “She has two families – the parish family and us. She was encouraged from both of us.”

He added, “All of that matters when a young person is discerning. We need to all kind of back them for the priesthood or sisterhood or brothers or whatever they want to be. If you see somebody that’s discerning, you have to encourage it a little bit too.”

FAMILY IMPACT

Walking with Elizabeth on her vocational journey has impacted her family members.

Aaron said her independence and desire to follow God’s will has been inspirational for him. Her example also reminds him to make time for prayer. He is married and has four children.

“A full and intent prayer life for me is difficult ... we are on the run. It gets busy, and when I reflect on her decisions to slow down and pray, it helps me do the same,” he said.

The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are a semi-cloistered order. They gather four times a day to chant the Psalms and listen to Scripture. They also celebrate Mass as a community daily and spend 2.5 hours in personal prayer. They are able to receive visitors and are given two weeks each year to visit family.

“Elizabeth has always been very in touch with the spiritual side, so she’s been a big part of my faith life. All my kids have when I think back on my journey. They’re all good Catholics and we feed off each other,” said Mike.

The sisters’ ministry is prayer, but they also work within their monastery to support themselves by making altar bread, liturgical vestments, soap, gourmet popcorn, and publishing a magazine.

“At St. Bernard’s, all our altar bread comes from the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration,” said Mike. “Every time I go to Communion here, I think of the sisters there now. It’s a great connection.”

For more information about the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, visit www.benedictinesisters.org.